When TIME first curated its list of the 10 best Korean dramas available on Netflix in 2020, Squid Game had yet to be released. Since then, the show has become the most watched non-English show of all time. The broader landscape of Korean offerings on the streaming platform has also transformed massively, thanks to Netflix’s continuing billion-dollar investment in South Korea.
Now Netflix is packed with South Korean shows that testify to the creative prowess of the country’s writers, directors, and actors. From budding romances to sci-fi thrillers, and gritty noir action to heart-rending slice-of-life anthologies, the platform has become an extensive repository of world-class Korean entertainment, proving that the “one-inch barrier of subtitles” Bong Joon-ho once spoke of is no longer a hurdle for the persisting Hallyu wave.
Below, TIME recommends another eight Korean drama series, from audience favorites of the last decade to recently-concluded releases. For the purposes of this list, shows currently unavailable on Netflix USA are not included.
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Hometown Cha-cha-cha (2021)
“Best” doesn’t always have to mean “intense and thought-provoking.” Sometimes it can simply mean easy, enjoyable viewing, and that’s the case for Hometown Cha-cha-cha. This 16-episode romantic comedy adaptation of a 2004 film pairs a pragmatic dentist (played by Shin Min-a) with a handsome jack-of-all-trades handyman (played by Start-Up’s Kim Seon-ho) in an idyllic seaside village. Don’t dismiss the series for its tropey, opposites-attract plot—many have praised those comforting properties as “healing,” especially when it premiered mid-pandemic. All of that helped it to rank in Netflix’s Top 10 non-English language dramas upon its release, at the height of Squid Game’s popularity.
The Glory (2022-2023)
Bullying is often a plot point in K-dramas, but in The Glory, the pervasive social issue and its rippling effects through time is the centerpiece. The eight-episode show revolves around Moon Dong-eun (played by Descendants of the Sun’s Song Hye-kyo) and her hyperfocused orchestrations to get back at her abusers from 20 years ago. The series is not for the faint of heart—its writer even borrows disturbing details of abuse from real-life incidents—and yet The Glory made the Netflix Top 10 in 89 countries and became one of the most watched non-English shows on the platform this year.
Squid Game (2021-2023)
This list would not be complete without this 2021 survival drama that broke records left and right. A congregation of indigents are invited to compete for 45 billion Korean won (USD 38 million)—by playing fatal versions of South Korean children’s games. But apart from the gruesome violence, Squid Game engages viewers with the potent theme of economic despair and desperation as entertainment for the rich. Not only does it have over 1.65 billion hours of viewership on the platform, it also amassed accolades both locally and in Hollywood, including a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor O Yeong-su and an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Lee Jung-jae. A second season is scheduled for release in 2024.
Mr. Queen (2020)
One approach that Korean drama has excelled in is genre-bending, and the entertainment value of Mr. Queen is a testament to this. Aside from brushing upon gender issues, the 20-episode series is a period drama, body-swap fantasy, and comedy rolled into one. It follows a modern-day chef who is transported back in time to the Joseon era and has possessed the body of a queen. Mr. Queen is a heartwarming romp through Korean history, with excellent performances from its actors including lead Shin Hye-sun. The show initially received backlash from audiences for supposedly making light of history, but it still became one of the highest-rating Korean dramas nationwide.
Extraordinary Attorney Woo (2022)
This episodic legal drama starring Park Eun-bin has been applauded for its neurodivergent representation. Park plays the eponymous Woo Young-woo, who is diagnosed with savant syndrome and finds herself working for a large law firm. The show at times hinges upon unrealistic depictions of high-functioning individuals in the autism spectrum, and glosses over ableism and discrimination in the workplace. But what sets apart Extraordinary Attorney Woo from similar shows is its portrayal of inclusive spaces for people with disabilities.
SKY Castle (2018)
SKY Castle is a satire of cutthroat parenting in many parts of Asia and the intense environments surrounding private education. Four wealthy families living in a prestigious neighborhood in Seoul are vying to get their teenage children into the best universities. Initially only supposed to be 16 episodes, the show was extended by another four episodes due to popular demand. The show became a hit in China, for its similarities to the grueling gaokao (college entrance exam) that burdens many of its students and their respective families.
Our Blues (2022)
An ensemble of South Korea’s A-list actors star in this melancholic drama anthology about people in popular tourist haunt Jeju Island. Featuring riveting performances from Hollywood actor Lee Byung-hun (Mr. Sunshine and Squid Game) Lee Jung-eun (Parasite), among many others, the highly-viewed show weaves together initially disparate stories within their community to paint a relatable holistic picture of grief, pain, and growth.
When D.P. was released, it became a controversial hit drama that prompted South Korea’s defense officials to defend the country’s mandatory military conscription system. The story follows conscripts Ahn Jun-ho (Jung Hae-in) and Han Ho-yeol (Koo Kyo-hwan), who are assigned to the Deserter Pursuit Unit (D.P.), responsible for tracking down and apprehending deserters from the Korean military. The show received praise for its depiction of abuse and power-tripping within South Korea’s armed forces. Netflix released a second season of the show on July 28.
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